Human Chain, a performing arts project organised by cultural diversity charity ArtsEkta, saw more than 60 young people from diverse communities across Northern Ireland perform together to a full house at the MAC, Belfast last week.

Using the poetry from Seamus Heaney’s last book as a springboard for conversations, Human Chain captured the experiences of these young people using drama, music, movement and visual art to explore what it is to be growing up at this time, in this place.  Their stories were full of joy, anger, frustration and hope, highlighting the complexities faced by our young people as they navigate through their formative years, trying to make sense of the world in their own unique way

Aoife Nic an tSaoir, Outreach and Engagement Officer, ArtsEkta who organised the event says:

“We wanted to provide a creative space for young people to explore and express their culture and their identity.  Seven groups from across Northern Ireland were selected for this initiative with initial workshops in January. This was followed by the development of short scenes that reflected the participants’ experiences. As well as these individual pieces, the groups came together to create ensemble pieces where they had the opportunity to work with young people from different cultures and traditions, highlighting both the similarities and the differences that exist amongst the young people.”

Matt Farris, Creative Director of this ArtsEkta project says:

“It is the opportunity to come together and work alongside people from across Northern Ireland – to share stories, hear the stories of others and develop a greater understanding of the diversity that exists within Northern Ireland and the way in which this enriches everyone’s experience. It is the opportunity to showcase the work carried out during the workshops and to provide the participants with a platform on which to have their voices heard, their opinions acknowledged and feel that their views are contributing to the changes being made within their own communities and across Northern Ireland.

“Human Chain is young people telling it how it is for them as they navigate their way through these formative years of their lives – the challenges they face, the hopes they have, the changes that they want to make. It is by them, for them, and for those of us who maybe don’t have the opportunity to hear what the younger generation has to say about Northern Ireland in the past, present and future.”

The seven groups selected for this project which was funded by The Executive Office through the T:BUC Scheme – Together Building United Committees are:

Brownlow Community Hub, Theatre, Movement and Film group  – Craigavon

  • Highfield Youth Club, Theatre and Music group – Shankill Road, Belfast
  • Tides Training, Theatre and Film, Keady
  • Colaiste Feirste – Theatre and Movement – Falls Road, Belfast
  • The Braid, Dance and Movement – Ballymena
  • Rainbow Factory, Dance and Movement – Belfast City Centre
  • St. Theresa’s Youth Club, Visual Arts and Prop Making with Graffiti – Glen Road, Belfast

Members of the West Belfast Women’s Choir joined the young groups for a special finale. St Theresa’s Youth Club also worked with artist Eoin McGinn to create a striking backdrop for the performance and all the groups took part in cultural diversity workshops as part of this project.

Nisha Tandon, Executive Director, ArtsEkta said:

“The goal of this project was to give the participants the opportunity to participate in high quality artistic workshops, building their confidence and giving them a voice. Through their participation we have been exploring how they see themselves within greater society and how they relate to people from different backgrounds. We hope to break down barriers to relations between people from different backgrounds and encourage young people to strive toward a society where cultural difference are not only accepted but celebrated. We have worked with young people from various community backgrounds and a key message that is coming through is that they all experience the same issues and they all want the opportunity to be involved in projects where they can express themselves.

“Through the project, ArtsEkta has been able to strengthen existing partnerships and form new relationships with a number of organisations across the province. Throughout the project, the idea of ensuring a legacy to the project has always been at the forefront of the work, gaining a greater understanding of each of the groups that we are working with and ways in which they would benefit from further arts engagement. A true success for this project would be the ongoing and deeper engagement with each of our community partners and further education and celebration of the diversity that exists in Northern Ireland.”

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